Mid-Life Crisis or Opportunity? It’s Your Choice!

midlifecrisis“Be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of life it may occur.” ~ Muriel Spark

At a recent gathering, I asked someone for the time as it was too dark to see my watch clearly and I did not have my cell phone handy for a quick check. “No one wears watches anymore. That makes you sound so old,” she pronounced. While I suspect people in droves are not tossing out their designer timepieces or condemning them to a junk drawer, her snippy observation gave me pause to absorb her words. Manners aside, I really do not care how you access the information; in this case it was a simple request for the time. Use a sundial if it suits you better but it was my reaction to being thought of as OLD that was noteworthy. Could one simple comment begin a rapid spiral of negative thinking or was something else available to me if I could step back and notice its impact?

Mid-life and the process of aging can take many of us by surprise. In fact, it can feel like a much faster trip than we planned for and not the ticket we intended to purchase…yet. In our youth oriented environment, growing older is not as honored as it is in some cultures. It may be a time for feeling marginalized; like someone who should take up less space, leaving room for the next generation, those who are energized with fresh ideas to lead.

On the other hand, at a recent workshop I conducted, participants were asked to name four words that best described “aging”. The responses were fast and furious, underscoring the negatives they associated with the word. As these descriptors were recorded, I suggested we look beyond our initial reaction and consider the following choices like:
• Wisdom
• Character
• Strength
• Confidence

How did that feel? It was as if a light switch had been flipped on and from this newly positive perspective, we were able to collaboratively fill pages with many more words that were energizing and a reflection of the pronounced shift in thinking.
The words you choose are very important. They can empower you as much as they can weaken you. Words can be used to create clarity or confusion; crisis or opportunity; motivation or disinterest. They are powerful tools with which you can shape your life. As always, it is your choice.

• Select a word at the beginning of each day as a focus for the day
• Notice the language you use positively or negatively
• Become aware of your choices and how you can influence others by making conscious selections

©MWeisner2017

Attention + Intention = NO Tension

attention-pleaseInformation overload is distracting everyone. We are all busier than ever and constantly attempting our best to satisfy connections on an escalating level of immediacy. If you are always available to everyone else, when are you truly available to yourself? Does your calendar include space for YOU? If your response to that has anything to do with wishing for an 8th day of the week, then it is clearly time to put the brakes on and give yourself a real break.

We are each allotted 168 hours in a week. Some things are not negotiable. Assuming that work/commute can take up to 60 hours, sleep another 50 hours, general daily life activities are an additional 30 hours and we are still reasonably left with 25 hours. How intentional are you with that time? Does it melt into recovery from the overstimulation of your daily routine or do you designate specific periods to activities you enjoy and feed your soul?

According to Linda Stone, blogger and former Microsoft executive, we pay “continuous partial attention” as we skim furiously, hoping not to miss anything. We multi-task frantically yet the “to-do” list takes on a life of its own, morphing into an out of control, anxiety producing document, further proof of our inability to manage life as we should.

Not so fast with the blame game and impossible comparisons to what we assume other people are accomplishing in the fantasy life we have constructed for them. The turning point for a client was driving away from her favorite coffee shop and not realizing that her special latte had taken a nosedive from the roof of her vehicle miles earlier. She had been more attentive to her cell phone than to her unique AM caffeinated order kick start and more importantly, to her own safety! Together we created a preliminary plan to identify the habits that drove her multi-tasking engine and ways to modify those behaviors.

• Pre-plan your day the night before
• Prioritize. Take on the most challenging task first. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and more energy to attack whatever is next.
• Schedule a break that includes some change of geography; a quick walk, a short phone call to a friend, or enjoying a beverage of choice
• Most importantly, staying in the present focuses your attention on what you are doing NOW through its completion. Remember, multi-tasking can take up to three times longer to finish the same task.

©MWeisner2017

10 Additional Time Saving Tips

imagesca83x7i0If you implement even just a few of the time saving tips listed below, you will begin to notice a difference in your workday and your productivity. Even better, you may notice that you have a little more free time.

1. Keep an Organized Workspace
Don’t spend hours rifling through your desk looking for a particular document when you could just implement a filing system and find it in seconds.

2. Back Up Your Files
Create backups of all your important files in case of a computer meltdown. Consider an online service for this purpose.

3. Utilize Shortcuts
Use keyboard and browser shortcuts and keep all your commonly used programs in an easily accessible location.

4. Automate Expenses
Make use of automatic bill pay services whenever possible to avoid late payments and time spent actually paying bills each month.

5. Just Say “No”
Don’t take on tasks just because someone asks you to. If you don’t have the time and it won’t help your business, don’t do it.

6. Make the Most of Down Time
Time spent in waiting rooms, on the subway or even on long elevator rides could be used to update your calendar, write notes or accomplish other simple tasks.

7. Clean Up Old Files
Ridding your computer of old files can not only keep you from having to wade through them while looking for more relevant files, but it can also speed up your computer and save you from a fate of endless loading pages.

8. Use Mobile Apps
There are mobile productivity apps, mobile calendar apps, mobile list apps – all of which can help you accomplish tasks and save time while not in front of a computer.

9. Know Your Habits
If you’re an early bird, get your most important tasks out of the way early. If you’re a night owl, don’t force yourself to turn in big projects in the morning. Play to your strengths.

10. Don’t Over-Schedule
You might be overly optimistic in the morning about how much you can get done that day. But creating a too-full list is only going to overwhelm you later in the day.

©2017MWeisner

Getting Centered

1028789_origFast and furious we seek the quick fix. What if you were able to stretch time? What if you weren’t always trying to “beat the clock”? What if you could relieve stress and recover more quickly when you feeling overwhelmed? Stop for a moment and visualize a time when living was effortless, when everything flowed. Some examples might be when you hugged your newborn child, received a degree, scored a winning goal or recalled a special vacation memory. At that moment, you were centered. As you visualize that centered moment, notice your state of being so that you can recreate it again and again whenever you choose.

Train to Center ~ Once you recognize center, you can begin to train in it. At first this requires trust. Don’t expect major breakthroughs to happen daily. Let go of attachment to measurable outcomes. Appreciate your moments of centeredness. Take in everything about your world at these times, and again, persist in your training. With time, centeredness will become a familiar place where you can rest and revitalize yourself.

There are many ways to train in centering. Here are some concrete examples of how to incorporate centering training into your life:
• Recreate the image or feeling you experienced in the centering visualization from above periodically during the day.
• Breathing is natural for everyone. Begin to use your breath as a means to center.
• Breathe deeply and slowly from your abdomen whenever you are aware of tension in your body.
• Choose two or three daily activities that you can use as reminders to center. For example, when the phone rings, center on the first ring and answer on the second.
• Other centering checks might be turning your computer off or opening the door to your office.
• Set aside 10-20 minutes daily for quiet reflection, introspection and meditation.

Unless you know where you want to go, you are unlikely to get there. Know your purpose in life and why you are involved in the activities that occupy your time. Be crystal clear on this and in times of stress, reflect on that purpose before you take action in a conflict. Simply and regularly ask, “What’s the highest level of me that can show up right now?”

Develop a network of people, programs and literature that brings you back to center. Our strength is in connection, not in isolation.

Are You Conversationally “Tone” Deaf?

tonedeafRecently I found myself at lunch with two members of a group I belong to. The meeting was pre-arranged by mutual agreement to suit complicated work schedules. The purpose of these appointments is to learn more about each other, how we can be better resources and perhaps make referrals in the future. Business per se is not the topic, yet after enjoying many of these engagements, discussions of business, work challenges and other areas are frequently spoken about. In other words, there are no hard and fast rules; rather it’s left up to the participants.

When your role is as the moderator, it’s clear that you are responsible for posing questions, introducing topics and managing the flow. However, when the meeting’s intention is to engage everyone, it’s another matter. Despite my best efforts to be included I had to step back and assess what was happening.
• Did my dining companions feel more comfortable with each other?
• Have nothing in common?
• Social anxiety?
• Poor manners?
• Totally unaware?

I am not a quitter and try as I might; these very nice professionals were exhausting me to the point where I had to make a break for the restroom and some relief. We have all been in situations where attention might focus too much on one person or topic, so how can you not become TONE DEAF too?
• Remember why you are there
• Is it social or business?
• Be prepared with several possible topics of a general nature
• Notice the flow of conversation
• How can you contribute, share and ask questions?

Unless you are the instructor, it’s not your place to point out to your “companions” how challenging your time together has been. Better to make a graceful and early exit because time spent is one thing we can never get back.

©MWeisner2017

Save Time…Simplify Your Day

ignore-listenNot all tips may apply to you and no doubt you already employ ways to simplify your days, however, if you can pull out even one idea that eases your workday, enjoy!

1. Limit Meetings
Meetings can be essential, but they can also turn into time wasters if they go on too long or happen too frequently. Accept and schedule only important meetings.

2. Use Email Filters and Archives
Use email filters and archives so that you don’t spend hours looking for a particular message. Easy tools can keep your communications organized.

3. Hire a Virtual Assistant
A virtual assistant can help you with mundane daily tasks like email and bookkeeping.

4. Keep Projects in One Place
For both completed projects and those still in progress, have one folder or area where you know you can find them.

5. Avoid Travel Rush Hour
If you commute or have to travel for meetings, take traffic and construction into account. WAZE is an excellent GPS navigational tool and a quick app to download.

6. Have Virtual Meetings
Whenever possible opt out of on-site meetings and instead consider the use of programs like Skype or GoToMeeting.

7. Take and Organize Notes
Keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down notes and ideas or use an app like Evernote to store ideas, images and more so you don’t waste time trying to think of them later.

8. Take Advantage of Technology
There are many time saving and organizational apps and services available such as Dropbox, which lets you bring your photos, docs and videos anywhere. Experiment and find the ones that work for you.

9. Don’t Get Carried Away
Attempting to master and utilize too many productivity applications and services at once can be a time waster. Don’t use so many of them that you spend more time on them than you save.

10. Delegate
Ask your team to take on tasks that you don’t have time for or those with which you know they’d do a good job. Outsource and ask for support before you are overwhelmed.

©2017MWeisner

10 More Time Saving Tips

moretimesavingtipsSelf-care is an important focus as you address daily tasks. Accomplishment, while important, is best addressed with a balanced approach.

1. Schedule Breaks
Everyone needs to take breaks throughout the day, so make sure to account for them when scheduling your tasks for the day.

2. Schedule Time for Email and Social Media
Email and social media can be enormous time wasters. Don’t respond to every email as it comes in and don’t leave Facebook or Twitter open all day. Instead, schedule a short block or two throughout the day to accomplish these tasks.

3. Avoid Distractions
Aside from social media and email, there are a number of other distractions that can cause you to waste time throughout the day. If you work at home, turn off the TV. If you work in an office, take a different route to the water cooler to avoid chatty co-workers.

4. Stick to One Task at a Time
Multi-tasking sounds like a time saver, but it isn’t. Serial tasking is most effective. Focus on one task, complete it and then move on to then next item on your list.

5. Batch Tasks
It can be helpful to do similar tasks consecutively. For example, make all your phone calls for the day back-to-back.

6. Incentivize Tasks
When you have a really difficult task to complete, give yourself a reward for completing it. Something as simple as taking a break makes a difference.

7. Focus on Results
You should have an idea about why you are doing each task on your list. Ask yourself how each item will impact your company and focus on results.

8. Don’t Stress Over Unimportant Details
If something doesn’t have a big impact on your business, don’t stress about it. Perfectionism can be a big time waster.

9. Create Good Habits
Create a habit of sorting files regularly, responding to emails in a timely manner and quickly accomplishing any other tasks that show up on your to-do list so that it quickly becomes routine.

10. Eliminate the Non-Essentials
Remove items that no longer serve a purpose to your mission, both physically and electronically
.
©MWeisner2017

Dream Killers

dream-killers“If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”

The three biggest dream killers; overwhelm, isolation and frustration, are most often experienced when we operate without a plan. You may have the best idea and the clearest vision, yet without support along the way, it’s an enormous challenge to achieve that dream.

• Stop thinking stupid thoughts
• Stop doing stupid things
• Stop working on meaningless projects

Make a map of everything that is important for you to work on right now. A strong visual is a reminder of where you are headed. It reinforces your dream and makes the goal more tangible when you can see both the path and the objective.

Notice what you do every day. Do your activities support your dream?

Whenever you focus on your dream, there is always one thing, that if you do it, it can change your life or business forever. Where’s your timeline for accomplishing that one thing?

Remember, your environment is a perfect reflection of YOU. This doesn’t mean pricey space or a team of consultants. For some, a cluttered or a messy desk is inspiring and underscores activity and ideas in action. For others, a more serene, less stimulating space is ideal for creativity. You choose!

And, let’s not forget about the people you surround yourself with? Are they positive, realistic, and smart? Do they share your vision and values? Can they be critical and objective too? Are these people a reflection of your past or your present?

Do an overall scan. What are you reading? What TV programs do you watch? Strive for harmony not dissonance which will give you a more congruent or matched life, internally and externally.

Failing to make necessary adjustments, you will feel frustrated, like you are always climbing uphill, forever inches short of realizing your dream. So, do the personal and professional inventory, make the changes and keep your eye on the prize.

©2017MWeisner

10 Daily Time Saving Tips

timesavingtipsWith a variety of tasks and deadlines to meet, how can you accomplish these goals more efficiently? No matter your business or profession, who couldn’t benefit from quick tips to save time. Below are 10 tips to accelerate your process and streamline a plan of approach.

1. Set Goals
Each morning, write out a detailed to-do list of the things you want to accomplish that day.

2. Create a Plan
Figure out when and how you’ll accomplish each item on your daily list. Will you need help, supplies, etc.?

3. Prioritize by Importance
It’s inevitable that sometimes you’ll have to delete items from your to-do list, so decide early what the most important items are and prioritize.

4. Prioritize by Urgency
You’ll need to get to those projects that have urgent deadlines so leave the ones that are due next week for later.

5. Break Down Large Tasks
If your list includes some overwhelming items, break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

6. Be Realistic
Don’t expect to accomplish everything in an hour. Know your limitations and your abilities.

7. Track Your Time
In order to better understand how you really spend your time, take a few days and record everything you do and how long it takes. Include breaks, e-mail, social media and everything else, so that you’ll find out what your biggest time wasters are.

8. Set Deadlines
Need some motivation to complete a project? Set a deadline for yourself and tell others about it so they can help hold you accountable.

9. Keep One Eye on the Clock
You don’t want to constantly obsess about time, but you also don’t want to let the day get away from you because you weren’t paying attention. Stay on track.

10. Set Reminders
If you have a deadline or meeting coming up, set a reminder on your phone that will go off shortly beforehand.

©MWeisner2017

How Well Do You Know Your Market?

sign-upHow well do you know your market, demographic or audience? It’s all the same after all, simply a question of semantics. Who is buying or benefiting in some way from what you are selling? When I first began presenting workshops to groups, it was with a 90-minute program in an Adult Education/Community setting. The cost was low, but most important was to gain experience and refine the offering for future groups elsewhere. Feedback was excellent and the courses filled, some even with a waiting list. Almost every participant wanted more sessions and strongly suggested that I create a 2-part program. When I pitched it to the director, she was hesitant and expressed some doubts based on her experience with adults but ultimately agreed to try it. Much to my surprise, not only did registration dip dramatically, but those people who did sign-up were not as enthusiastic or participatory as my “One-and-Done” groups had been. I was disappointed and tried to get more feedback. Was it me? The quality of the offering? Cost? Or was it just the profile of the adult-ed student which is unique? While there was no definitive answer, I know that I did not do enough research to understand the history of multi-part workshops or the commitment of the adult learner in a casual setting. Expectations for learning a foreign language or a musical instrument are quite different than for personal development, goal setting and the accompanying homework. I had been flattered by the positive feedback and went full ahead without understanding that getting bodies in the seats requires more than setting the date and creating the content.

A recent newsletter I received underscores the same experience according to Amy Swift Crosby, founder of SMARTY. She understands her audience. When people called for a presentation on “How to Build Your Back Room” which is about accounting, staffing, etc. she knew that it was not sexy enough to get customers out of the house to attend a program like this. However, a webinar was the perfect idea and enrollment exceeded her goal.

She continues at length to describe the local joint/diner that has a great greasy spoon following and is now offering gluten free muffins. If the thinking behind this is that it will draw in a whole other group of customers, it’s probably off target. It’s more likely that those diners are also looking at a different overall dining experience, replete with high concept coffee, cultivated sea salt and more.

So, as entrepreneurs we may have many, many exciting new ideas and vetting them isn’t always the most fun part of the process. Imagining yourself in the customer’s place and thinking like the client is the shift that needs to happen before you place an order for 1000 x or sign a 5-year lease on that very cool storefront.

©MWeisner 2017